This is my third article in a five part series regarding the Jets' biggest mistakes made this offseason. While the first two were very controversial, this error should bring about very little dispute.
This mistake is the Jets' inability to sign a free safety.
In a market low on safety options, the Jets quickly tried to lure in Reggie Nelson, the top available unrestricted free safety. They kept him for an entire weekend until he eventually signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Desperately, the Jets pounced on the other safety they brought in that weekend to strengthen their depleted corps. His name, of course, is LaRon Landry. After this signing, many analysts found this acquisition a move of disparity.
Without a true starting free safety and Jim Leonhard saying he'll be back by the regular season, it seemed as if the Jets were going to re-sign the incumbent. When that didn't happen, fans everywhere became a bit more worried.
Free safety has been the Jets' biggest position of need since Jim Leonhard went down. They don't bring him back and refuse to upgrade it.
For this reason, many thought that the Jets would target Mark Barron in the draft. However, understandably so, the Jets pounced on one of their favorite prospects who was falling, rather than trading up to take Mark Barron.
Even after the draft, a few safeties remained, including Oshiomogho Atogwe (aka OJ Atogwe). He's a ballhawk safety who has some difficulty in downfield one-on-one coverage, but he has the same ball hawking skills as Ed Reed (evidenced by his eight- and five-interception seasons).
Yet the Jets looked elsewhere and went for another strong safety (giving them four in total) in Yeremiah Bell. While Bell is a tackling machine and a smart veteran, he can't cover very well. Even in the Cover 2 defense he has trouble.
So throughout the offseason, the Jets needed to upgrade their free safety position.
They picked up a top strong safety in Landry, drafted a quickly falling but talented prospect in Antonio Allen and then signed a 34-year-old who has poor coverage skills in Bell.
So how did they address the need? Yes, there were only a few options at free safety (Nelson, Dashon Goldson, Tanard Jackson, Michael Griffin) so it's true that they didn't have much option, but besides Nelson, the Jets didn't even bother looking at any other free safeties.
Now the Jets are going into preseason Week 2 with three good SSes (Landry, Bell, Smith), a young student SS (Antonio Allen) and only one true FS (Josh Bush out of Wake Forest). The only defense in which this skill distribution is useful is the 46 defense, which the Jets run as a gimmicky defense, not a base defense.
It is starting to seem as if the Jets cannot find a true starter in their base defense and are creating new packages to showcase their newer talents who do not fit in the 3-4 defense.
Hopefully, one of the triumvirate learns to cover, because the season could depend on their ability to adapt to the needs of a safety in a pass happy NFL.